Num­bers show sub­urbs em­braced Dems

Trend should worry GOP in 2020, an­a­lysts say

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Sean Ross­man Con­tribut­ing: Brad Heath

Clus­ters of wealthy, ed­u­cated sub­ur­ban vot­ers shifted their loyalties to Demo­cratic can­di­dates on Tues­day, turn­ing on Repub­li­cans and al­low­ing Democrats to re­gain con­trol of the House.

A USA TO­DAY anal­y­sis of midterm elec­tion re­turns across the na­tion found more than 80 sub­ur­ban coun­ties and ci­ties – with high in­comes and a large num­ber of col­lege-ed­u­cated vot­ers – voted more Demo­cratic com­pared to 2016.

The ma­jor­ity of the areas showed sin­gle-digit-per­cent­age-point in­creases for Democrats, but more than 20 wit­nessed a dou­ble-digit swing, some­times turn­ing red coun­ties blue. In Cobb County out­side At­lanta, for in­stance, 53 per­cent of vot­ers went for Democrats, up from 39 per­cent in 2016.

The left turn proved vi­tal, knock­ing off Repub­li­can in­cum­bents in sub­ur­ban dis­tricts and seem­ingly blur­ring the bound­ary of Trump coun­try. An­a­lysts and con­gres­sional lead­ers all but re­claimed the sub­urbs for Democrats fol­low­ing the elec­tion.

“We’re de­lighted that sub­ur­bia, which used to be so Repub­li­can, is now Demo­cratic,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wed­nes­day. He said the sub­ur­ban re­treat, along with high turnout from women and mi­nori­ties, should worry Repub­li­cans and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in 2020.

“Just as the ru­ral vote re­volt has con­tin­ued to ben­e­fit Trump and Repub­li­cans, a new sub­ur­ban re­volt, es­pe­cially among col­lege-ed­u­cated women, has worked to the ben­e­fit of the Demo­cratic Party and will prob­a­bly con­tinue,” said Larry Sa­bato, founder and di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics.

Take Repub­li­can-lean­ing Delaware County, Ohio, north of Colum­bus. A quar­ter of its votes went for Democrats in 2016, when Trump nar­rowly won the state. On Tues­day, that num­ber jumped to 44 per­cent – a fluc­tu­a­tion of 19 per­cent­age

“A new sub­ur­ban re­volt, es­pe­cially among col­lege-ed­u­cated women, has worked to the ben­e­fit of the Demo­cratic Party and will prob­a­bly con­tinue.”

Larry Sa­bato Di­rec­tor, Univer­sity of Vir­ginia Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics


Mor­ris County, New Jersey, across the Hud­son River from New York City, posted a 15-per­cent­age-point in­crease for Democrats. For­mer Navy he­li­copter pi­lot Mikie Sher­rill de­feated Repub­li­can chal­lenger Jay Web­ber for a U.S. House seat due to the shift there.

DuPage County out­side Chicago saw a 10-point change.

The trend per­sisted in sub­urbs across the coun­try and in con­gres­sional dis­tricts that flipped from Repub­li­can to Demo­crat, con­tribut­ing to the Democrats’ new House ma­jor­ity.

Jen­nifer Wex­ton, who up­set Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock, re­ceived a boost by 10-point gains in Fair­fax and Loudoun, two sub­ur­ban Vir­ginia coun­ties out­side Wash­ing­ton, D.C. In Kansas, Sharice Davids de­feated Repub­li­can Rep. Kevin Yoder with the help of a 14-point swing in sub­ur­ban John­son County out­side Kansas City.

USA TO­DAY an­a­lyzed Amer­ica’s wealth­i­est and most-ed­u­cated coun­ties and ci­ties with com­pet­i­tive House races, to­gether rep­re­sent­ing 36 mil­lion peo­ple. Some county num­bers weren’t yet avail­able. In each of th­ese coun­ties or ci­ties, at least 30 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion has a col­lege de­gree. In many cases, it’s more than half. The areas have me­dian house­hold in­comes of $62,000 or more, but of­ten top $100,000.

Of the 123 coun­ties and ci­ties, in­clud­ing the more than 80 in the sub­urbs, Democrats gained ground in all but three, where they held even. They won out­right in 60 of th­ese areas, up from 39 in 2016.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts see the trend as ev­i­dence that prag­matic sub­ur­ban vot­ers can’t be type­cast. Or, per­haps, they’ve grown weary of Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial com­ments and po­si­tions.

“They’re put off by the harsh rhetoric of Trump on al­most ev­ery­thing,” Sa­bato ex­plained. “I have seen not only no soft­en­ing to­ward Trump among the highly ed­u­cated, I have seen an in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of the anger, re­sent­ment and op­po­si­tion to him.”

The midterms ex­em­pli­fied how mal­leable sub­ur­ban vot­ers can be, said Sam Abrams, a scholar at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute who writes about po­lit­i­cal ge­og­ra­phy.

Over the past two decades, while ru­ral areas be­came more Repub­li­can and ur­ban cen­ters be­came more Demo­cratic, the sub­urbs waf­fled. The bloc moved slightly to the left or right de­pend­ing on the elec­tion, Abrams said.

“Th­ese folks are flip­pable, and that’s what we saw here,” he said. “They’re go­ing to be ret­ro­spec­tive vot­ers. They’re go­ing to look at what what’s go­ing on and they’re go­ing to say, ‘Are we happy with it? Are we com­fort­able with it?’ ”

Mak­ing that group com­fort­able, both Sa­bato and Abrams say, should be a goal of both par­ties in 2020.

“The only com­pet­i­tive ter­ri­tory is the sub­urbs and the ex­urbs,” Sa­bato said.


A woman votes in Fair­fax County, Va., a sub­ur­ban county where Democrats made gains Tues­day.

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